Here are the Top 10 most banned and disputed books of 2021

This content contains affiliate links. When you purchase through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released a list of the 10 most challenged books of 2021. They tracked 729 challenges representing 1,597 books, but these are only the challenges that were reported to the ALA. or that have received significant media attention. They estimate that around 90% of formal challenges go unreported and get no media coverage, while many other books are “unofficially” pulled from shelves or never stored at all for fear of being challenged.

Here are the 10 most banned and disputed books of 2021, and the reasons why they were disputed.

#10: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

This is a YA non-fiction title that features interviews with trans teens and adults about their experiences of discovering their gender identity and coming out. It also includes photographs.

It has been challenged for its LGBTQIA content and accused of being “sexually explicit”.

It received star-studded reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist, and it was a 2015 Stonewall Honor book.

Cover This book is gay

#9: This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson

This book is gay is a YA non-fiction book that acts as a self-help guide to both questions teens have about gender and sexuality as well as what to do after coming out. out. It also includes personal stories of LGBTQIA people.

It has been challenged for LGBTQIA content and for providing sex education.

It received a star-studded review from Booklist, was nominated Guardian Best Book of the Year and winner of the 2018 Garden State Teen Book Award.

Cover of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

#8: The bluest eye by Toni Morrison

It is a literary fiction title dealing with racism that is commonly taught in AP English classes and college classrooms.

He was challenged for depicting child sexual abuse and was accused of being sexually explicit.

Toni Morrison has won the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, and is widely considered one of the best American novelists of all time.

the cover of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

#7: Me and Earl and Jesse Andrews’ Dying Daughter

A YA novel that involves a teenager befriending a girl with cancer, this was compared to The Fault In Our Stars when it was first released, but has a very different tone.

It has been challenged for being allegedly sexually explicit and demeaning to women.

The book was made into a film which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. This title has also received stellar reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and it has won several YALSA awards.

Cover The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

#6: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is an illustrated novel for young teens about an aboriginal teenager who attends a predominantly white school.

It was challenged for profanity, “sexual references” and “use of a pejorative term”.

This title was winner of the National Book Award. He also won an American Indian Youth Literature Award, but this award was rescinded after several women spoke out about Alexie’s sexual harassment.

The Hate U Give cover

#5: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

The hate you give follows a black teenage girl who witnesses an unarmed black friend being killed by the police.

He was challenged for blasphemy, violence and “anti-police”.

It was a New York Times #1 bestseller, received eight star reviews, won the William C. Morris Debut Award, and was made into a popular movie.

the cover of Out of Darkness

#4: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

This is a YA version of Romeo and Juliet that follows a Mexican American teenager and a black teenager in a segregated 1937 Texas town who fall in love. It deals with the racism and misogyny that the main character faces in this environment.

It has been challenged for depictions of abuse and accused of being sexually explicit.

It was a Printz Honor Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and winner of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.

cover of All the Boys Are Not Blue

#3: Not All Boys Are Blue by George M. Johnson

This is a YA memoir about “the trials and triumphs facing black gay boys,” told in personal essays.

It was challenged for profanity and LGBTQIA content, and it was accused of being sexually explicit.

It was a New York Times Bestseller, TV Option, Amazon Best Book of the Year, ALA Rainbow List Pick, Best Library Book of New York of 2020, Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020, Choice Award Finalist Children’s Book, YALSA Teen Top Ten List Winner, and more.

Lawn Boy cover

#2: Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

lawn boy is an adult fiction title about a 22-year-old Mexican American young man trying to find himself. It deals with race, class and sexual identity.

It has been challenged for its LGBTQIA content and accused of being sexually explicit. (Specifically, this title is often wrongly accused of pedophilia, as it contains a scene where the main character remembers experimenting with another boy when they were both young.)

It has received star-studded reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist.

gender queer book cover

#1: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

This is a graphic memoir about coming out as non-binary and asexual.

It has been challenged for its LGBTQIA content and accused of having sexually explicit images.

It won the 2020 Alex Prize and the Stonewall Book Prize.

The ALA has its own page for this title, which includes awards and honors, reviews, where it has been banned/disputed, and additional resources.

The ALA has shared a word cloud with the most common reasons why books are banned or challenged. It also acts as a snapshot of the political discourse around these books over the past year, with ‘LGBTQIA’, ‘critical race theory‘ and ‘woke’ among the most common reasons. (Next to “sexually explicit”, which coincidently only seems to apply to LGBTQIA books or books written by and about people of color.)

a word cloud of reasons for challenging the books from the 2021 reports

You can see the ten most challenged books from previous years, as recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, on the ALA website.

To keep up with censorship news, check out Book Riot’s weekly censorship news roundup. To fight censorship and book bans, try the Anti-Censorship Toolkit.

Comments are closed.